Ripapa Island Historic Reserve - closed due to earthquake damage


Tucked close against the southern shore of Whakaraupō (Lyttelton Harbour), the small island of Ripapa was an ideal site for a fortified pa for Ngāi Tahu and later, a fortress to defend against Russian attacks.

Ripapa Island Historic Reserve is closed due to earthquake damage.


Disappearing gun at sunrise, Fort Jervois, Ripapa Island. Photo: C. S. Robertson.
Disappearing gun at sunrise,
Fort Jervois, Ripapa Island

Fort Jervois and big guns

One of four sites used to defend Lyttleton Harbour, Ripapa Island was built in response to the perceived "Russian scare". The walled fort, dating from 1886, survives today and is the most complete "Russian scare" fort in New Zealand. Of particular significance are two large disappearing guns, still virtually complete, which very rare examples of their kind. The fort was occupied by the army until the end of World War I and re-occupied again during World War II.

Fort Jervoi, Ripapa Island.
Fort Jervois, Ripapa Island

Small island - big history

A fortified pa was built here in the early nineteenth century by Taununu, a Ngai Tahu chief who had moved south from Kaikoura.

Several skirmishes were fought on the shores and slopes surrounding Ripapa. Ngāi Tahu occupied Ripapa until about 1832, when the chief Te Whakarukeruke left to help defend Kaiapoi against Te Rauparaha.

Ripapa Island was used as a quarantine station for new immigrants from 1873 to 1885. In 1880 the Island was used temporarily as a prison for 150 of Te Whiti’s followers, transported from Taranaki.

Displays on the island provide more information about its history.


Southern shores of Lyttelton Harbour (Whakaraupō), near Christchurch.

Getting there

The island is only accessible by boat.

Guided tours by Black Cat Tours, Ph +64 3 328 9078. Tours are for parties numbering 16+ and are by arrangement only.

Black Cat Tours website

Plan and prepare

Ngāi Tahu wish to encourage understanding of and respect for the values of this special place. Visitors are asked to be aware that eating food on the island denigrates its tapu status.

Related links

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Find out more


Follow the Outdoor Safety Code:
1. Plan your trip
2. Tell someone
3. Be aware of the weather
4. Know your limits
5. Take sufficient supplies

Alerts for Canterbury places


Ōtautahi / Christchurch Visitor Centre
Phone:      +64 3 379 4082
Address:   Botanic Gardens Information Centre
Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Armagh Street Carpark
Christchurch 8013
Full office details